The Rolling Stones, Exile On Main Street


The Rolling Stones’ crowning achievement, Exile On Main St boasts artwork as chaotic as the sessions that spawned the album. Decamping to guitarist Keith Richards’ Nellcôte villa, in Villefranche-sur-Mer on the Côte d’Azur, the Stones embarked on several months of partying and recording, playing host to a revolving cast of characters, including John Lennon; beat generation novelist William S Burroughs; and Gram Parsons, the doomed mastermind of country-rock’s ‘Cosmic American Music’; and, from nearby Marseilles. The Stones’ rock’n’roll circus was in full flow  and what better way to illustrate it than with a collage of big-top entertainers? The Robert Frank photograph (taken from his 1958 book, The Americans) that gracese was taken in a tattoo parlour somewhere in the US: a collection of stills including contortionist Joe ‘The Human Corkscrew’ Allen and ‘Three Ball Charlie’, a man who could simultaneously fit a tennis ball, golf ball and billiard ball in his mouth. Frank was asked to film the Stone’s Exile tour, but the results the infamous Cocksucker Blues documentary were deemed too incriminating to release. Though by the end of the 70’s the Stones’ influence had temporarily waned, the influence of Exile’s artwork would be seen in the cut’n’paste DIY ethic of the emerging punk scene.

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